Ever since the decline of legacy media, many entrepreneurs have been attempting to cash in on the success of eBooks. While most people have more success marketing an eBook to generate leads for an email list, or as a free bonus to promote special affiliate offers, there are ways that you can cash in on eBooks themselves. However, not every eBook will sell well in an already over-saturated market. You need to be able to identify a solid and useful topic, write a thorough and valuable eBook, and properly monetize it for maximum sales. Luckily, it’s not as difficult as you might think.
How to Write an eBook
While there are numerous scams out there, promising thousands of dollars when you sign up for a useless service that will “help” you write an eBook (then showing a picture of an actor holding a stack of hundred-dollar bills), there are some people that have honestly had a good return on their eBook. Glen of Viperchill.com wrote an extensive article about his successful eBook, Cloud Living. Ultimately, he ended up making $30,000 from his popular eBook, which taught people how to make a living online.
So, before you start on your eBook, there are a few things that you have to remember in order to be successful:
- Pick a topic that you know well, that people are currently interested in, and that allows you to provide the most value. For example, if you notice that the topic “kids costumes that rock” is trending in Google searches, and you have some experience in sewing, you might write an eBook about how to create your own cheap kids’ Halloween costumes.
- You don’t need to invest in an expensive writing and editing program for your computer. Openoffice.org offers a free word processor that allows you to quickly and easily export any document to a PDF file (the preferred format for eBooks).
- Planning is key. An eBook provides the perfect opportunity for you to practice your prewriting skills. Have a plan for what direction you’re going to take, as well as some notes on the information you would like to include for each section (i.e. create an outline). Otherwise, your eBook could come off as being directionless and vague.
- Don’t worry too much about word count. Information is what’s important. While you might not sell many 1000-word eBooks for $19.99, eBooks aren’t usually meant to be 100,000-word novels. Thoroughly and accurately cover the topic in as many words as it takes, but use lean writing to get your points across quickly.
Choosing an eBook Topic
To find a good topic for your eBook, try using some free web tools that can help you find trending topics, or use common sense to time your eBook’s release with an event that should increase interest.
Google Trends is an excellent tool for finding trending topics. However, you must be careful to choose topics with continuing interest – not ones that will drop in popularity after a couple of days. While “Miss Universe 2011” is likely going to stop trending soon, a trending search like “earthquake” holds some potential for a profitable eBook.
Looking at the Search Volume Index for the past several years in the image above, you can see that the term “earthquake” has experienced some notable interest spikes, usually coinciding with a major earthquake. You can expect interest to continue with this term over the long run. You might write an instructional eBook on the term using one of the following titles:
- 100 Earthquake Survival Stories
- Earthquakes and Doomsday Predictions: The Historical Link
- The Complete Earthquake Survival Guide
Creating the eBook
Once you have a topic in mind and have performed the prewrite, it’s time to get to work creating the eBook. For the written portion, don’t focus so much on creating a narrative. Instead, focus on providing easy-to-digest and actionable information. eBooks work in the same way as webpage content – white space helps make them much easier to read. Use bulleted lists and headers throughout the content to make it easier to scan. In addition, try presenting information in other ways to help readers get through your work. Charts and graphs are excellent additions to help make information more clear.
For clean and crisp charts and graphs, the program Omni Graph Sketcher is perfect (2-week free trial, $29.99 to purchase) and most eBook creators use it to make their own charts. Although there are some free websites for creating graphs and charts (remarkably, NCES’ Kids’ Zone Creator is probably the best), they lack the customization that programs like Omni Graph Sketcher offer.
Remember that your topic has a lot to do with your writing style. If you’re putting together a study, most readers will expect the information to be scholarly in tone, or written from a position of authority and supported by a large amount of citations. However, an eBook on kids’ Halloween costumes might need to be a little more casual in tone, without many works cited (if any at all).
Finally, no matter what you write, make the investment in a good editor. While your writing might make perfect sense to you, it can be completely lost on the average reader. Spelling and grammatical errors can make it seem like you didn’t put much effort into the eBook, which can cost you future conversions. Hire a good editor early in the writing process, and he or she can help you structure the eBook properly throughout the process. If you have trouble writing the eBook, simply buy a few eBooks yourself to get an idea of what readers expect to see in the content. This can help give you ideas about phrasing and organization as well.
Making Money from eBooks
One of the most important questions you must ask yourself before you begin marketing your finished eBook is whether or not you need an established audience beforehand. It’s almost always better to have a group of Internet readers that already view you as an authority, rather than investing in an eBook that might not return your investment for months. For example, the successful eBook marketer Darren Rowse (Problogger) waited to launch his first eBook until he had been writing for the site for five years. Because he waited so long and acquired a huge audience, he was able to make an estimated $450,000 from a single eBook (priced at about $19.00).
Before you begin marketing your eBook, however, it’s important to make sure it’s protected from duplication. All Media Copy offers a helpful guide on adding password protection to your eBooks, in addition to adding a copyright.
There are a few ways to market your eBook (none of which include just popping it up on Amazon.com and hoping for the best):
- Start an affiliate program: You can contact other bloggers in your niche and ask if they would be willing to promote your eBook in exchange for a percentage of each sale (51%, for example). Most bloggers are constantly looking for ways to monetize their sites, and it doesn’t cost you anything to duplicate your eBook. You might want to use a service like Clickbank to keep things safe and organized.
- Build an interested audience on your blog/site: This really is the best method to selling an eBook. If you really can’t find an audience, you might try something similar to affiliate marketing by contacting a prominent blog owner and setting up a deal where they sell your eBook and offer you a percentage (provided they are willing to put their name on your product). Keep in mind that people who make significant money from selling an eBook get around 75% of their sales from their original audience/email list.
- Organic Search Traffic: You can always use targeted organic search traffic to sell your eBook as well, whether it’s through your existing website or a new one you put up just to sell the eBook. The search marketing doesn’t have to be for the eBook’s exact title. Using our earthquake example, you can set up a website with the domain name earthquakesurvival.com (if that search phrase is searched often) and create a simple sales page designed to sell your eBook.
Creating an eBook is a great deal like creating a long article, but must be very well written and laid out to convince people (who are accustomed to getting valuable content for free) to buy it. Generate a good topic and invest some time and money into the eBook and you should have a quality product. When marketing the eBook, focus on long term conversions for a low rate, rather than pricing your eBook high in the hopes of making some quick conversions for a few hundred dollars.